I never have been nor ever will be a tiny Asian girl. I’ve always been a chubby kid — it’s evident in my baby pictures which bear remarkable resemblance to Notorious B.I.G as I sit there big-cheeked, big-thighed, staring into the camera with a scowl (I was probably hungry). It was evident from my pants split at the butt-cracks because I was so booty-licious, no amount of fabric or denim could hold it in.
My large size never did me any favors. I was teased mercilessly — none harder than by my stick-thin entertainment industry-driven family. Because we were all aspiring actors, models, stage-moms and daddies, being slim wasn’t merely an aesthetics pleasure, it was a business model.
As I went through puberty, I had a growth spurt propelling me to a 5’7″ height. My baby fat also dissipated over time.
You’d think that would have made things easier. It did and it didn’t. I realized that I just had a slower metabolism than the rest of my family (and Hollywood, apparently) and I was literally big-boned. And because I was thinner, my family was finally able to imagine me with a future in showbiz so the pressure to be svelte increased. (Whereas before, in my chubbier state, the thought never even crossed our minds). My shape became something that consumed my mind. In college, I would exercise at least two hours a day in the hopes of losing weight. My extreme workout (for me at least) only made me hungrier so I would pile up come dinnertime and end up gaining weight. I never knew how to get it right.
Until I discovered the best weight loss secret in the world. Wanna hear it?
Here it is…
It was actually valuing my body as opposed to wanting it to look a certain way. I was exercising because I liked building lean muscles that made my body strong and eating more vegetables and fruits because they perked up my energy and made my skin better and lightened my mood. Diets don’t work — everyone knows it. Lifestyle change, mentality change does. I’m still not Sports Illustrated-ready but I’m a whole lot more confident in my image. And who knows, maybe one day, Sports Illustrated will take me just as I am, small boobs, big butt, jiggles and all.
There are still many in my life who are going battling forms of eating disorders. Many are driven Asian Americans who want to control some aspect of their lives because they are unhappy with others aspects. The more we step up to the plate and tell them, hey, this is a problem you need to address, the more positive results we’ll see. The thicker we build our skins so that when people criticize us and call us fat, we’ll say, “so I’m not size 0, so what?” the more of an encouragement, empowerment we will be for others.
I’m proud to say Lynn Chen and Lisa Lee feel the same way.
In June of 2010, Lynn Chen started a food blog, The Actor’s Diet, after years of battling eating disorders. At the beginning of 2011, she stumbled upon an interview on NPR with Lisa Lee, in which Lisa discussed the story she wrote for Hyphen magazine about her past struggles with food and body image. Needless to say, Lisa found herself doing extreme dieting to cut weight and found herself losing control when the pounds started coming back.
What made Lynn perk up her ears was that Lisa talked about how being Asian specifically played into her obsession over being skinny. After listening to and reading Lee’s story, Lynn immediately knew they had to connect.
“I didn’t even know what I wanted from Lisa, but I felt compelled to start something,” Lynn says. “I’ve been looking for something concrete regarding Asians and body image for years. When I first began my therapy in my 20s, I had contacted various national eating disorder groups to see if there were any support groups for Asians. I was left at a dead end, and the messages I got over the next decade were that eating disorders and body image were not problems that affected people in my community. “
This myth was shattered when Lynn received numerous emails from her blog readers, both men and women all over the world, who admitted their past and current struggles with food, and felt the pressure to look thin. Like Lisa, Lynn realized that their problems were not just about will power – they’re social, cultural, and familial.
The two women connected over their experiences via emails, phone calls, and in-person at a tasty scones cafe (of course), and together, they decided to launch this site – “Thick Dumpling Skin” – to provide a space for everyone who may have felt alone in their struggle.
“We wanted to create a place for Asian American men and women to come together, to share, to discuss, and more importantly, to find support for something that has been acknowledged on the surface, yet largely ignored in our community,” says Lisa.
Hopefully by reading the stories shared on this site and contributing one of your own, our self-esteem and confidence will rejuvenate and we will learn to love ourselves for who we are.
Here’s Lynn and Lisa sharing more about Thick Dumpling Skin.
Check out Thick Dumpling Skin here.